Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Three good movies.

After my last post in which I attempted to express my displeasure at Will Ferrel's excrescence "Kicking and Screaming", I feel bound to offer some alternative watching which might better satisfy my discerning audience.

From the UK, "Gideon's Daughter", is mostly about Gideon, played brilliantly by Bill Nighy, a middle-aging widower losing touch with his motivations in life and, not coincidentally, his daughter. The movie is a veritable symphony of emotional nuance which will resonate with anyone undergoing significant, unexpected and possibly unwelcome changes in mid-life. It is not just the central storyline which is significant. The girlfriend and her ex husband give us much to think about, especially those who are unwillingly removed from their own children's lives. Her recollection, in particular, had a physical impact on me - I don't like tearjerkers, I don't like to be manipulated, even willingly, but I just lost it over that scene. Jeez, not just once, but on the second viewing too. You'll know the one I mean.

Then there's "World's Fastest Indian" in which Anthony Hopkins plays the indomitable old codger Burt Munro, a New Zealander determined to write his seriously modified old wreck of a motorcycle into the record books. Told in three episodes - establishing his life in New Zealand, traveling to Bonneville Salt Flats by ship and road, and the nail-biting run for the gold once he gets there - this is a period piece par excellence. Hopkins portrays Munro as a real man's man, and by that I don't mean a generic tough guy. He's human, he has limits, but he knows what he wants, does what he can to get there and does his best to enjoy the journey in the meantime. Maybe he'll make it, maybe he won't, but he's darned well going to give it a try. So should we all. (Why is it, by the way, that Hollywood is so bad at portraying average Americans as human beings? Why does it take a Kiwi to come along and show them how to do it? Do they ever listen?)

And lastly, how about "The Thing About My Folks"? Peter Falk (yes, Columbo), plays Paul Reiser's dad and beautifully. Apparently discarded at the end of a long marriage, Falk's Sam Kleinman decides to visit his grown son Ben. The two end up on a road trip together in which there are two scenes which speak volumes - one where Sam holds forth to Ben and the other when Ben lectures Sam. Sam clearly understands his son very well, Ben is only now really learning about his dad. Take my advice though, stop the DVD or switch channels, or just turn the TV off once they fall asleep under the stars. By then, you've seen everything significant the movie has to say. It's not that the rest is bad, it just doesn't say anything more about Ben nor Sam Kleinman and if you're watching for the exploration of the father/son relationship, well, that's it and the rest of the movie is simply distracting. (If you really want to know how it all plays out, remember that this is Hollywood and the lead up to this point means that things couldn't possibly be as they seem. There has to be a way to make things alright after all, doesn't there? Do the details really matter?)


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